časopis pro pedagogiku v souvislostech * journal of education in contexts
Ročník: 2015Volume: 2015
Číslo: 1Issue: 1
Vyšlo: 1.července 2015Published: July 1st, 2015
Potměšilová, Petra -  Buqiong, . AMBIGUOUS STIMULUS IN THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS OF PUPILS WITH HEARING IMPAIRMENT. Paidagogos, [Actualized: 2015-07-01], [Cited: 2017-10-24], 2015, 1, #13. P. . Availiable at: <>


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Petra  Potměšilová -   Buqiong

Abstract: Hearing impairment has a major influence on the person with such impairment. The hearing impairment is the most frequently mentioned impact on communication skills and related skills such as working with concepts and symbols ambiguous stimuli. (Potměšil, 2009; Horáková, 2012; Souralová, 2002; Potměšilová, 2014; Lamprapoulou, 2003; Marschark ,1997) One option to reduce this negative impact is usage of classifying functional processes in the educational process. One of these approaches can be art-philetics.

Keywords: Hearing impairment, ambiguous stimulus, education.

Introduction to the topic

The situation of individuals with hearing impairments is often likened to that of foreigners who already have the basic understanding of the society that surrounds them and even possess the fundamental linguistic competences required for them to live in that society. And yet, despite these skills and experience, they remain foreigners. They are not always capable of comprehending the fine nuances in communication, and some of the habits and patterns of behaviour rooted within the society and passed from generation to generation, may cause them problems.

The educational process is a fundamental factor in the development of individuals, and, by inference, of their communication competences. Bearing in mind that development of skills, abilities and knowledge is driven by education and training, the educational process must be adapted to the needs of the individual, so that it may mould them in a positive manner. There is a wide array of so-called compensatory and supporting actions available in respect of pupils with special educational needs, the purpose of which is to saturate the special educational need concerned. 1

Hearing impairment

According to the WHO (2014), three basic areas are defined where hearing impairment may have an impact on persons with hearing impairments: the functional, social and emotional, and economic areas.

Functional impact denotes the effect of hearing loss on the formation of communication skills that can influence the potential for education. The social and emotional impact most often manifests itself through limited access to services, and exclusion from general communication, which can lead to feelings of isolation. The economic impact is observed in societies that do not recognize the equal right to education of people with hearing impairments. In these cases higher unemployment rates tend to be registered among people with hearing impairments. According to Potměšil (1999, p. 36) hearing impairment tends to be an especially powerful factor in the cognitive-social area, which includes: impulsive behaviour, lack of self-respect, deficiencies in the propensity for empathy, inability to describe one's own current mental state and explain one's own feelings, limited understanding of some pro-social terms, simplified or even black-and-white concept of personal traits, and difficulties in the field of interpersonal relations. Vymlátilová (2006) includes the following among factors affecting development of children with hearing impairments: supporting thought processes with specific activities and experiencing difficulties while figuring out general concepts. Vágnerová (2012) links hearing impairments with stimuli deprivation, which primarily affects communication competences. Altered development of communication competences has implications in the domain of thinking, which tends to be rather specific, and also in the domain of socialisation of persons with hearing impairments. Šedivá (2006, s. 10) reports that children with hearing impairments tend to be delayed in the verbal domain of the intelligence, namely in the informational area and in the area of comprehending verbally logical relationships and verbally characterised social situations. Marschark (1997) and Lampropoulou (2009) mention the need to apply special approaches under the educational process for children with hearing impairments. Yuhan (2012) and Chen (2014) deal with the effect of hearing impairments on personality development.

Educational process

Major philosophers and educationalists, such as Plato, Kant or Comenius, all subscribe to the concept that men only become men through education. Kraus (2008, p. 64) characterises education as a dynamic process of conscious and controlled socialisation, which includes all activities that mould each human for life in a specific society. Brezinka (1996) understands the concept of education as a transfer and mediation of a set of skills required for autonomous and socially responsible living. He refers to this set as 'life fitness'. Smékal (2012) characterises education as an organised form of socialisation. Therefore, education facilitates the processes of moulding the personality of an individual so that they can cope in the society that surrounds them. Education may be characterised as a process, the aim of which is to develop knowledge, abilities, skills and habits.

As concepts, education and training may be looked at in various ways: Jůva (1997) and Koťa (2008) distinguish between a broader and a narrower concept of education. According to Grecmanová (2010), Lindner and Hendrich, for example, conceive of education and training as two autonomous terms. On the contrary, according to Grecmanová (2010), Vorlíček or Krejčí, for example, tend to regard distinguishing between the broader and narrower concepts of education as outdated.

Educating children and pupils with hearing impairments

Pupils with hearing impairments are educated both at special schools and in the form of integration within the main educational stream. The capabilities for educating pupils with hearing impairments have changed throughout history. The year 1991 may be regarded a breakthrough year in terms of educational capabilities. Presently, three basic approaches to the educational process for pupils with hearing impairments are employed: the oral method, which is based on the auditory-oral approach, i.e. using lip reading, hearing and spoken language; the bilingual method, which involves balanced and full-fledged representation of the two communication systems under the educational process, and the total communication method, which includes hearing, manual and oral methods of communication - in essence, this involves using all available means with a view to allowing an individual with hearing impairment to accomplish full comprehension during a communication situation.


As a discipline, artefiletics is closely related to art therapy. It employs procedures similar to those of art therapy, but restricts them to the educational process. The objective of artefiletics is not to treat, but to contribute to self-discovery, personality development and advancement of desirable personal traits as part of the educational process. It may also be applied as part of prevention of social and other pathologies. The term artefiletics has been coined by Jan Slavík (1997) who is also the spiritual father of the entire discipline. Slavík defines artefiletics as a special concept of artistic or, in a broader sense, expressive education, which touches the boundaries of art therapy and primarily addresses authentic experience-based discovery of an individual and their culture and development of emotional, social and creative aspects of the human personality. In its essence, artefiletics consists in establishing links between expression and reflection.

The research problem

Individuals with hearing impairments experience problems comprehending and practically using certain terms. Due to their hearing defect, they face extra difficulties in the natural process of creating semantic fields of terms and therefore face difficulties in creating a functional conceptual structure. Due to this fact and based on the aforementioned theoretical knowledge, the research problem has been defined as follows:

  1. the handicap may have an effect on the ability of children and pupils with hearing impairments to comprehend and use conceptual structures,
  2. there are special pedagogical procedures that can promote natural and functional evolution of conceptual structures in children and pupils with hearing impairments.

As a next step, the following two research questions were formulated:

  1. Are children and pupils with hearing impairments ready to respond to ambiguous stimuli?
  2. Are there any culturally conditioned differences in the way children and pupils with hearing impairments perceive ambiguous stimuli? If so, what are they?

The actual research took place during 2013-2014. The investigation was however, preceded by nine years of intensive research in the area of perception of ambiguous stimuli by various target groups (Potměšilová, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014).

Data acquisition methods

The principal data collection method chosen was analysis of activity results, which was complemented by other two approaches:

Each respondent received the following picture, which was a cut-out, namely ¼ of a larger picture:

Figure 1

In addition to the picture, which is referred to as the original motif or ambiguous stimuli further in the text, all respondents received a clean white A4-format sheet of paper, crayons with a choice of 24 colours and glue.

Once the above creative items were distributed, the following instruction was given in Czech sign language and in Chinese sign language:

„You have received a part of a picture. First of all look at it carefully, you can also turn it. As soon as you think the picture reminds you of anything try to complete it. Glue the part of the picture to the white paper you have received. You can tamper with the picture any way you like. You can use any of the creative items you have received.”

While working, the respondents were observed for the way they were handling the picture and for the speed in which they completed the task. The time allocated to the task was always adapted to the respondent group characteristics, ranging from 10 minutes to half an hour. This was followed by a semi-structured interview during which the respondents were asked the following questions:

  1. Is your work the result of an instant idea, did you know immediately what you would do?
  2. Was this the only idea you had or did you have more ideas about what to do?
  3. If you had more ideas why did you choose this particular solution?

The research sample consisted of 63 pupils with hearing impairments aged 8-12 from the Czech Republic (Group A) and 60 pupils from the People's Republic of China (Group B). The pupils came from various types of schools, and they were chosen randomly except that they had to meet the above criteria (hearing impairment, age).

Data analysis

As part of the research investigation, the pattern capturing method was applied first, followed by the simple enumeration method.

Pattern capturing method

Respondents' creations were systematically stored according to the collection date and divided into two basic groups: Group A and B. Group A contained artefacts from children and pupils from the Czech Republic, while Group B contained creations of the children and pupils from the People's Republic of China. The creations within each group were analysed separately with patterns (categories) gradually worked out based on the analyses. The creations were analysed three times in total before the categories could be steadied, characterised and named. The named categories were subjected to mutual comparisons of specific artefacts pertaining to either group.


Specific pictures were gradually included in the categories created and notes were taken as to the number of their occurrence. Even here, the artefacts were analysed three times before the following data were specified:

Group A

Table 1
Graph 1

The above results imply that 32% of pupils with hearing impairments experience difficulty responding to ambiguous stimuli.

Group B

Table 2
Graph 2
Figure 2

The above results imply that pupils with hearing impairments from the People's Republic of China experience major difficulty responding to ambiguous stimuli. Except for the picture above, the stimulus went entirely unnoticed with the respondents merely attaching various elements around it.Based on an interview with colleagues from the People's Republic of China and based on experience we obtained working with children with hearing impairments in the People's Republic of China, we may now formulate the possible cause of their non-comprehension of the instructions or, perhaps more fittingly, of their inability to respond to ambiguous stimuli:

Children and pupils with hearing impairments are trained to work with clear stimuli, which facilitates their orientation in everyday life. This does not mean that they are not prepared to deal with symbols; however, working with symbols is essentially different from that in the European environment. Symbols are interpreted to children and pupils in an unambiguous manner, and the interpretation is always justified.

Yet another factor that must be taken into consideration is the fact that children and pupils are led to complete their task. The way in which they do that is evaluated as either good or bad. With this task, however, it is impossible to unequivocally state what is good and what is bad. As a result, the respondents may develop a feeling of uneasiness, which they will not be able to cope with, leaving the original motif unnoticed and creating the picture in such a way that it produces a first-account impression that the task has been completed.

Validation of the research questions

Following the description we may now proceed to gradually answering the formulated research questions:

  1. Are children and pupils with hearing impairments capable of responding to ambiguous stimuli?

About a half of the children with hearing impairments from the Czech Republic were able to respond to ambiguous work instructions. However, the above ability was not registered for all of the children and pupils. Children from the People's Republic of China were unable to respond to ambiguous work instructions. We consider this finding to be important with regard to further research and formulation of practical recommendations.

  1. Are there any culturally conditioned differences in the way children and pupils with hearing impairments perceive ambiguous stimuli? If yes, what are they?

Yes, there are cultural differences in the way ambiguous stimuli are received. The basic difference that globally affects the responses produced involves the fact that children and pupils with hearing impairments in the People's Republic of China, are not led to work with ambiguous stimuli. They do not understand and are unable to respond to such stimuli.


Hearing impairment is a handicap, which may affect not only the affected individual's communication competences, but also their personality. The educational process is a fundamental moulding element in each individual's development. The artistic technique outlined above showed the magnitude of the difficulties individuals with hearing impairments may experience while processing ambiguous stimuli. The results show that the educational process plays a crucial role in the way ambiguous instructions are perceived (as attested by the inability observed for pupils with hearing impairments from the People's Republic of China). Artefiletics appears to be a fitting method of fostering development of functional responses to ambiguous stimuli. In its essence, artefiletics consists in consistently establishing links between expression and reflection, i.e. connecting the space for personal expression with that for feedback. Reflection is in this case used for further educational action. Artefiletics may therefore be regarded as a suitable method of working with children with hearing impairments. Through application of artefiletics, children and pupils with hearing impairments may thus be led to develop greater sensitivity to ambiguous stimuli and to understand the principles underlying the evolution of semantic fields.

As an illustrative example documenting the above conclusions, we may refer to the following artefiletic technique, operatively called Look for the Animal. Various pictures that were previously created using, for instance, the blowing technique, are distributed to children. The children are encouraged to try to look for various animals. They may even finish the drawings of animals. As part of reflection, the focus may then be on: observing the children's reactions when they look at their and other children's pictures, when they see shapes they have never seen before, and on the fact that one and the same situation may be seen from various perspectives.

This article was supported by a grant: IGA_CMTF_2015_ 010 and IGA_PdF_2015_013 and SNU Chengdu DYWH1404.


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Kontaktní informace / Contact informations

PhDr., Mgr. Petra  Potměšilová, Ph.D.

Department of Christian Education, Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Palacky University Olomouc

Univerzitní 22

771 11 Olomouc

Czech republic

  Buqiong, MEd.

Dept. of Special Education, Faculty of Education, Palacky University Olomouc

Žižkovo nám. 5

771 40 Olomouc

Czech republic

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